Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Don’t be intimidated by this recipe! There are quite a few components, but none of the steps are difficult, and they are worth every ounce of effort, and then some!!! These are honestly some of the best cupcakes I've ever eaten. The brown sugar cake with the homemade caramel filling make them so amazing, but the cake has a tendency to fall in the center.  Don't let this scare you!  It will make the perfect little divot for the filling, and the entire top will be covered by a beautiful swirl of frosting!

Salted Caramel Cupcakes
-Alyssa Griffeth-
Yields 12-14 large cupcakes.

CARAMEL FILLING:

1 c. corn syrup
1 lb. package brown sugar
1 c. butter
2 tsp. vanilla
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Combine corn syrup and brown sugar and boil for 3 minutes.  Turn off heat and add remaining ingredients.  Turn heat back on and stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil once again.  Set aside and let caramel cool completely.

CUPCAKES:

1 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar (dark brown sugar is REALLY important!)
½ c. sugar
½ c. butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
½ c. whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using 12-14 cupcake liners, line muffin tins (paper liners work, but foil is better.)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine sugars and butter together on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Add flour, baking powder, and salt, alternating with the milk.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling about 3/4 full (I like to use a PAM sprayed ice cream scoop for this). Bake 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. DO NOT over bake, or cupcakes will dry out.  Allow cupcakes to cool completely while making the frosting. Once cooled, cut a small cone out of the centers and spoon about 1-2 teaspoons of caramel inside each.

FROSTING:

4 ½ Tbs. flour
¾ c. whole milk (or 2%, but the higher the fat content, the better)
¾ c. real butter (make sure it’s a good brand like Challenge—In this recipe, it can actually make a difference)
¾ c. granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the flour and the milk. Whisk continuously until it starts to thicken. Let it cook, while stirring, until it looks like pudding (you should be able to see the bottom of the pan when you stir it). Be sure that there are no remaining lumps of flour. Let the mixture cool completely by chilling it in the fridge or in an ice bath in the sink. (If you don't let it cool completely, it will melt the butter and you'll have runny frosting.)

In an electric stand mixer, beat the butter and the sugar for a minute or two until combined and fluffy. Be sure to use the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, not the flat paddle. While beating, add in the thickened milk mixture and the vanilla. Beat on the highest speed you can get to without it spraying all over the place for 7-9 minutes. It will go from a goopy mess into something thick, velvety smooth, and perfectly fluffy.

If cupcakes are cooled. take about 1/2 c. of the caramel and gently fold it into the vanilla frosting--you want to have visible swirls of caramel, so don’t overmix..  You can add more a little at a time, if desired, but be careful not to make your frosting too runny or it will be difficult to pipe.  Place frosting in a piping bag and swirl onto cupcakes (I prefer a large Wilton 1A tip).

DECORATIVE CARAMELS:

1 package Werther’s soft caramels
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Kosher or sea salt

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave on 50% power stirring every 30 seconds. Dip the ugly/seam side of the caramel into the chocolate, about halfway down the side. Place chocolate-side-up on a plate and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Allow to harden in fridge.

Top each cupcake with a chocolate-dipped caramel and then sprinkle with a small pinch of Kosher or sea salt. Don’t be afraid of the salt! It really enhances the flavors of the cupcake!
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